Wind picked up Sarah's hair as she stood around waiting. In the 1960s, the school would have been new. Now it was run-down, outdone by later schools and in desperate need of some new buildings, but at least it had been recently painted. Some care was still being taken of Coal Hill School.
Still, the school had been built at a time when it appeared nobody cared for playing fields. There was barely a hint of grass and there was something about concrete that made everything seem colder.
Clyde was looking around impatiently, agitated and worried, but being Clyde, disguising it under his sense of humour. She of course, was trying to disguise her own aching worry with the usual confidence and the bravado she had perfected when she was about Clyde's age.
Sarah had dragged them out to this part of London on an off chance. Three chances she had been given and twice she had been wrong. Now she had one hope.
One hope until she could not find another power cell to charge the machine, or fit a different one to it, or track down the Doctor and ask him a favour. Sarah had come up with a number of contingencies to persuade herself that Luke was in no way trapped in a different time.
Sarah pressed the button on the hand-held contraption that had been causing all the trouble.
There was an unnatural flash of light. It was time ripping open. Like the parting of a sea, time itself split and a path formed linking one moment in 2010 to another in 1963. Seconds passed before she could see something move thought.
Out of it stepped her son.
"How did you know I'd be here?" Luke asked.
"Marshellian Paston's Fifteenth Theorem of Time Travel states that any two persons travelling through time are slightly more likely to meet from a probabilistic standpoint, within a margin of error described by a hypercube with complex dimensions," Sarah ran off.
Ian and Barbara looked at her like she had been speaking in an alien language. They were different, she observed. The seemed to be less sure. Still a bit shocked from being whisked away through time and space, she supposed. She knew they had not exactly volunteered to become time travellers.
"The first part I sort of understand," she said. "At least, I keep on bumping into you two. But the second part goes right over my head,"
"Much like the Thames," Barbara joked.
Sarah stared up through the water once more. A London underwater. At least the river was much clearer in the future than it was in her time. She could see the sun shining through blue waters from the surface twenty meters above her head. It was calm now, far from the massive torrent it had been half an hour earlier.
Sarah looked away and caught Barbara and Ian doing the same. Volunteers or not, she felt it suited them. She should know, she was becoming an old hand at the 'travelling through time and space with a manic Time Lord' business.
"But you must remember it," she said.
"Can I ask why?" Ian replied.
"Because it was you two that taught it to me. Word for word," Sarah replied.
"And if we don't teach it to you, then we cannot be having this conversation with you now," Barbara replied, echoing Sarah's thoughts.
"It's enough to give a person a headache," Sarah answered.
"I think we're going to have to write it down," Ian said.
Sarah smiled, and looked at the couple, who seemed to still be trying to make heads or tails of her. "You know, it's very odd meeting a person backwards."
"Did Marshellian Paston account for you being a time traveller?" Harry asked once she had explained it to him.
"As in?" Sarah asked.
"As in, I would say the probability of course increases when said time traveller happens to be an over-curious journalist. I expect you'll track down quite a few others."
"I'm not over-curious," Sarah protested. "I'm just the right amount of curious. You, on the other hand, could be more curious."
"The universe seems quite content on keeping me on my toes without me having to go looking for trouble," Harry replied.
"Hear, hear," Ian responded, raising his mug of tea. Sarah suspected the two men had found kindred souls in each other, which she should have expected. Harry did seem to belong to an earlier time. Any other day she would call him old fashioned, but with Barbara and Ian around – well, they were old fashioned, but their presence made her question the use of the term as an insult.
Barbara caught Sarah's eyes, her expression showing exasperation and at the same time affection for Harry and especially Ian. Sarah gave Barbara a grin and wandered over by the fire, away from the boys and to where Barbara was still warming herself up.
Ice planets. In Sarah's opinion there were far too many of them, and Sarah told this to Barbara.
"Some of the coldest experiences I've had were on our own planet," Barbara said.
"I suppose Earth can be just as bad. I'd hate to wind up stuck without the TARDIS in the middle of the Arctic or Antarctica."
"Oh, don't say it," Barbara replied with exaggerated feigned horror. "It might just happen."
They both laughed.
"Thank you, by the way," Barbara said. "I expecting to freeze to death out there."
"I can't take too much credit. We didn't expect to stumble upon you two."
"Yes, seems we do it a lot."
"Twice?" Sarah asked.
"It's yet to happen to you," Barbara said with authority. "You found us wandering around, completely oblivious to any danger and managed to get us into a shelter in time to avoid being drowned by the Thames."
Sarah considered this for a moment and wondered about the consequences of enquiring too much about her own future "So when do we next meet?" Sarah asked.
Sarah thought she going to suffocate in the smoke. She banged on the door again. Where was the Doctor?
Suddenly the door gave way and Sarah was let out onto the street.
She breathed in fresh air as she examined her saviours. Not the Doctor, but a couple, who – judging by their coats and scarves – had been out for a walk and been caught up in the explosion.
"Thank you," she wheezed, still catching her breath. "I think you just saved my life."
"I'm Sarah Jane Smith," she said by way of introduction.
"We know," said the woman. "I'm Barbara and this is my husband Ian."
"I'd say pleased to meet you, but we already have, so I'll just say, pleased to finally have repaid back one of the favours," he said as he shook her hand.
Sarah stared at the two of them, wondering what on Earth they were on about. They couldn't have met her before, at least, not as an adult. They could have met her last week as a teenager, she supposed, and thinking about it she did recognise them from somewhere.
"Have we met before?" she asked, but before Sarah could think about it for a moment, there was another explosion. She looked around to see if she could catch a glimpse of the Doctor.
"We saw people running that way," Barbara said.
"Great. Thank you," Sarah said, intending to run off, but before she could, she felt a hand on her shoulder.
"There's a cafe on Hallsworth Street, we'll be there at three o'clock," Ian said said.
"We're old friends of the Doctor's," the woman said.
Sarah stared at them, twenty questions instantly forming in her mind, but at the same time, painfully aware that the Doctor probably needed her, or at least something very exciting was going on that would make for a fantastic story if the Brigadier would let it be printed.
"Go. And don't worry. I think things will be just fine," Ian told her.
Three hours later, having made an excuse about wanting to go buy an album she couldn't get in her present but would be everywhere in 1966, Sarah found that cafe.
"I have to hand it to Harry," Ian said to Barbara as Sarah approached, "He was right."
"I'm sorry, but are you two going to explain things, or just remain cryptic?" Sarah asked, growing just a bit impatient.
"Have you heard of Marshellian Paston's Fifteenth Theorem of Time Travel?" Ian asked.
The football came sailing out of nowhere. She didn't notice it until it passed within inches of her nose. Sarah looked towards where it had been sent to see a boy, no older than seven, dressed in a football t-shirt.
Miffed her train of thought had been lost and also that she had almost been struck in the face, she looked around for whoever was supervising him.
There seemed to be nobody about.
"Hello," she said, doing the responsible thing but, irritated by that voice at the back of her head that told her she had more important things to do today than mind a lost child.
He smiled apologetically. "Sorry."
"Are you here with-"
"There you are," a woman said, emerging from around a corner. A man closely followed her. They were clearly the boy's parents. They both stopped when they saw her, a tiny bit of surprise written across their faces which quickly turned to warm smiles.
"Mum," the child said.
"Hello," the woman said to Sarah.
Sarah saw her opportunity. "Hello. I'm Lavinia Smith," she said, practising her cover.
The woman turned to the man and smiled. They seemed to be sharing a joke. She wondered if she had been caught out. "The famous virologist?" he asked.
Sarah's heart sunk. How could it have been that a random couple she met on the street had heard of her aunt? What were the odds?
"We read a paper by you recently," the woman said. "Astounding work. It's so nice to meet you in person."
Sarah could hardly believe it – it worked! She stifled a grin, barely containing her excitement.
"You know, there's been something I've been meaning to ask you for quite some time," the man asked.
Now she was done for, Sarah thought. While she knew quite a bit about her Aunt's research, it was not enough to answer any questions.
"Are you any relation to Luke Smith?" the man asked.
"A teenager I met once, years ago in strange circumstances - astoundingly bright," the man said.
"Kept on going on about time loops and probability," the woman added.
"We didn't think anything of it at the time," the man continued, "but in retrospect..."
"I'm afraid there's a lot of Smiths."
"Ah, but there can't be that many time-travelling Smiths," the man replied.
The woman hushed him, while Sarah contemplated whether it was some kind of joke she didn't get.
"We're going to be late," their son cried.
"Yes, we are," the woman agreed. "It was nice to meet you," she said putting out a hand.
Sarah took it and the woman pulled her a hug as if she were an old friend.
"Good luck, Miss Smith," the man said as he shook her hand.
Sarah watched the couple leave and considered the odd conversation. Time travel? Luke Smith? Sarah realised she had not caught their name. Never mind, she thought, seeing that the bus was arriving.
She tapped her pocket to make sure the letter from UNIT was still there and set off on her way.